How to Centralize your Study Methods
Starting college is a daunting yet exhilarating time. Many of us have persevered through numerous obstacles to obtain our roles today. Transitioning to college has the additional factor of creating your own schedule. For us, it was compelling to have the opportunity to do so. However, it was important for us to evaluate our previous study methods and how they could transpire into a successful plan for undergrad. Before discussing our study tips it is important to consider other obligations such as work, volunteering, etc. We understand that many of you may hold multiple positions and hold titles such as student-athlete or student-worker. Similarly, we both hold the role of student-worker as employees of VCU Residential Life and Housing. It is important for us to emphasize the “Student” because without maintaining our academics we would not have the privilege of holding multiple titles. Prior to examining your study methods, you want to draft out a class schedule that fits your lifestyle. It is obvious that you may not receive every class that you desire, so being flexible is key. When we generate our class schedules, we purposely choose earlier class times. This allows us to prioritize classes in the morning, and reinforce the material in the evening.
When initially faced with our collegiate course load, we recognized that methods we used previously relied on would not suffice. Though in high school, our preparation was effective, there were other methods that we hadn’t previously considered. As seniors, we believe we are in a position to share tips that have helped us to succeed.
Study tips:- Reminder, many of these may be specific to VCU, however, check your academic center for what your college may offer.
1. The Power of Re-Teaching- Everyone has a “go-to” study method when it comes to preparing for exams and completing assignments. For us, re-teaching information was essential. For each course we had in common, we would have 2-3 1-hour sessions each week teaching information to each other. We quickly learned that if you cannot explain the information you do not understand it. Identifying gaps in our knowledge helped to guide our studying.
2. Office Hours- Each professor is obligated to hold office hours on a weekly basis. By utilizing these offerings, we not only get to know our professors but also get first-hand explanations of information.
3. SI Sessions- VCU offers supplemental instruction for historically challenging courses. We attended weekly sessions that allowed us to reinforce the material with our peers.
4. Individual Tutoring Appointments- Within the VCU Campus Learning Center, tutors can be obtained up to 2 times a week. We utilize tutoring appointments for our more challenging courses.
5. Flashcards- Allows for easy repetition of material
6. Utilizing a whiteboard- This is definitely one of our favorite tips. A whiteboard allows us to rewrite mechanisms and practice free-response until they are memorized.
7. Find lecture videos on YouTube- Ninja Nerd has been one of our favorite channels on YouTube for physiology and biochemistry!
8. Reading the textbook- this may be the most controversial tip listed, however, we definitely encourage using the textbook to support contents lectured in class.
9. Recording lectures- Seeing that many classes may be asynchronous at this time, you may not need these tips. However, recording lectures allow you to refer to the material at any time, and to also focus on listening rather than writing during class
10. Scribing notes ahead of time- Prior to starting class, we recommended taking notes ahead of time or simply reading over the lecture material. This allows you to be ready for the lecture as well as participate in any class discussions.
To gain better insight on tips for success during the semester, we reached out to our previous professors. These are tips that they shared with us that allowed us to be successful their courses.
Dr. Mychal Smith- VCU Biochemistry 1 and 2 Professor- "I believe students who are most successful recognize when extra assistance is needed early in their degree and seek support. For instance, I find many students do not take full advantage of office hours to gain a better understanding of the material. I understand most students work and are extremely busy. However, most professors are willing to meet outside of office hours and with Zoom this is made even easier now. We really care about the student’s success and are here to help".
"Also, as students continue through their major, classes become more difficult. Some may not realize they do not know how to properly study for the increased difficulty. Take full advantage of all resources VCU provides like SI, the campus learning center, reaching out to the professor, and asking more senior students how they approach their classes".
Dr. Joseph Reiner- VCU University Physics 2 and Electromagnetism- "Go to class regularly and try to remain engaged. PHYS 208 provides real time questions that force students
to pay attention during lectures. If your class does not do this, then perhaps you could do the following".
1. Take notes during class. The simple act of writing things down helps your brain process information. If you sit passively while watching a lecture, then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage because you are missing a great opportunity to start processing material. Taking notes also forces your brain to function at a higher level so you are less likely to doze off or daydream.
2. I try to provide a topics schedule in my syllabus. Consider using this schedule to read up on the material we will cover a day or two before it is covered in class. You do not need to wait for the professor to provide PowerPoint notes to do this, you can do this with the textbook on your own. This should make your life much better because you will be hearing about the material for the 2nd time when it is presented in the lecture.
3. Do not procrastinate. You should spend 30-60 distraction-free minutes every day on something related to the course. Maybe that could be homework, or studying the notes, but the best way to manage stress and material in PHYS 208 is to absorb the knowledge in lots of small, manageable, quantities.
4. Work with others. I've found the best way to learn a topic is to teach it. If you work in a group, then you may find that explaining ideas to other people will help solidify the knowledge in your own mind.
5. Get plenty of rest. This is especially true on the nights before tests and quizzes. The night before a test should more or less be a review of what you've been studying over the past few weeks. Cramming material during an "all-nighter" the day before a test is a terrible idea and seldom leads to success. I like to think of learning course material like exercise. You don't train for a 10k road race
by sitting around for months and then running 10k the day before the race, instead you train steadily over a period of weeks and months leading up to the race. School work is very similar to this.
Dr. Meredith Katz- VCU Sociology- “The details are important but don't forget to make sure to understand the overall concepts. If you're having trouble understanding something, think "how would I explain this to my grandmother". Sometimes putting things in the simpler language is key to understanding".
"If possible, think of examples of concepts, not just a definition. This helps you apply concepts to the real world, which you are ultimately going to have to do once you graduate college. Read the syllabus on day 1. It's very helpful to know all the rules about the class and how grading
will be handled".